Process Allows Wet, Unprocessed Ag Waste to Be Made into Fuel
Los Altos, Calif.-based NextFuels is promoting a high pressure “bio-liquefaction” process for economically producing transportation and industrial fuels from wet, unprocessed agricultural waste.
The underlying technology – initially developed by Shell Oil – “will allow NextFuels and its partners to produce bio-based petroleum at commercial scale for $75 to $85 a barrel out of wet biomass that has not been mechanically or thermally dried,” the company says.
“The process is uniquely and specifically designed to work with wet biomass,” the firm emphasizes.
NextFuels is focusing first on Southeast Asia, where it will offer palm plantation owners a way to transform tons of residual plant matter into a new, profitable second crop.
Processed Initially Developed by Shell
NextFuels is collaborating on its commercial strategy with its affiliate Enagra, a biofuel trading company with extensive contacts and partnerships. “Over the past ten years,” NextFuels says, “Enagra has conducted over $1 billion in biofuel transactions and will achieve revenues of approximately $150 million in 2013.”
The NextFuels bio-liquefaction process involves heating biomass and water to 330 degrees Celsius (626F) while boosting pressure to 220 bar – nearly 3,200 psi. “Increasing the pressure keeps the water from coming to a boil, which conserves energy,” the company says.
“When cooled, the hydrocarbons form a putty-like substance called GreenCrude,” NextFuels explains. “Roughly 25% of the GreenCrude can be burned as a solid fuel in industrial boilers.
Good Energy Balance
“The remaining 75% can be converted into a liquid-fuel equivalent to petroleum that is compatible with existing pipelines and vehicles. The equipment required to convert GreenCrude into liquid fuels, in a process called hydrodeoxygenation, is already installed at most refineries and can accept GreenCrude with minor refinements.”
The NextFuels process boasts an energy balance of approximately 65% to 70%, the company says, meaning 65% to 70%, of the energy put into the system becomes useable energy. “By contrast, processes like Fischer-Tropsch achieve energy balances of 40% or less.”
NextFuels says it’s raising money to rebuild a bio-liquefaction demonstration plant created by Shell in 2005 in The Netherlands. “Within two to three years, NextFuels anticipates it will start to build its first commercial scale modules capable of producing 250 barrels of oil equivalent a day. Four modules capable of producing 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day will be the typical size of a NextFuels plant. Commercial scale modules will initially cost approximately $20 million and decline in price over time.”
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Source: NextFuels with Fleets & Fuels follow-up